John Gillies, member of Parliament for the North Riding of Bruce, was the third son of Hugh Gillies, a native of the city of Glasgow, Scotland; his forefathers belonging to the District of Lorne, in Argyleshire, reputed to have been descendents of Somerled, Thane of Argyle, and Lord of the Isles.
The Gillieses were found to have been much persecuted, through jealousy, by that powerful Chief Donald “De Isla,” or “Donald of the Isles,” from whom the McDonald’s derived their name, in the latter part of the thirteenth century. Mention is here frequently made of the name “Gillies” being connected in marriage with the same “McDonald of the Isles.” Mr. Gillies, whose mother’s maiden name was Mary Blue, was descended from the McDonald family, of Sleat, in Skye, one of whom, in the sixteenth century, was called Donald of the “Blue Eyes” (which distinction attached to the family name ever after), who was principal heir to the Lordship of the Isles, being the eldest son of the Earl of Ross, “Dhonal Gorme Shleabhte,” hence the name Blue.
Our subject is a native of the Parish of Kilcalmonell, Scotland received a parochial school education there, and lived with his father until 1852, at which date, when quite young, he came to Canada with two of his brothers, his father and the rest of the family following three years later. Mr. Gillies settled upon, and cleared a farm in the township of Elderslie, five miles from Paisley, county of Bruce, he being one of the first settlers in that part of the county, and following farming as his occupation. He holds three hundred acres largely under cultivation.
Mr. Gillies was elected reeve of Elderslie, at an early period of its settlement, holding that office for many years, being meantime warden of the county for five years. Few men in the county of Bruce have had so much to do with the shaping of its laws and regulations as Mr. Gillies. He was magistrate for the county of Bruce for many years, and holds the rank of senior Major in the Militia of Canada.
Mr. Gillies was first elected to the House of Commons for the North Riding of the county of Bruce in 1872; was re-elected in 1874 by acclamation, and again re-elected after a warmcontest, with his former opponent, Colonel Sproat, in 1878 by a largely increased majority. He is a Liberal and opposed to the so called “National Policy,” of the present Government believing as he does, in a revenue tariff, with the principles of free trade applied as far as the circumstances of the national finances will admit. If we understand his views, it is not until a return to such a fiscal policy and principles of free trade as these will be made, can, or will, the people of Canada as a whole, be justly dealt with, or be prosperous. Class legislation in any country, he regards as an evil, and he thinks it will prove to be a bane to Canada should it continue to be maintained for any length of time. Mr. Gillies is also opposed to the policy adopted by the Government of the day in its dealings with the settlement of the public lands in the North West, also to the policy pursued by the party in power respecting the construction of the Canada Pacific railway.
He favors a judiciously matured scheme by which to secure more fully and effectually the vote of the electorate of Canada, than has yet been attained, for he thinks that the habit of coaxing and dragging men to the polls, to discharge a sacred duty, which they owe to themselves and their country, is debasing and humiliating, and unworthy of a free and intelligent people.